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Man accused of theft after managing relative's accounts

Being accused of a crime is a serious matter, one that can change the course of an individual's life. When someone is innocent of those charges, clearing one's name becomes a top priority. For one Minnesota man, an accusation of theft may lead to an extensive legal struggle as he attempts to answer to charges of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

The 55-year-old Iron Range resident is accused of mishandling funds belonging to his uncle. The elder relative died in 2011 at the age of 79 and was reported to have suffered from a type of dementia that caused short-term memory loss. The nephew gained power of attorney for his uncle in 2007. That designation gave him the authority to handle the elder man's financial accounts.

After the uncle passed away, another nephew was named as the personal representative of those accounts. When reviewing the records, he found fault with the manner in which the uncle's money was spent, both during and shortly after his death. Records show that the first nephew made use of those funds for personal expenses, including the purchase of a new car and multiple gambling trips.

This is an example of a common dispute that can arise when family members disagree on financial matters. While there is no denial that the first nephew reaped financial reward, that is not to say that he stole money from his uncle. The uncle, who never married or had children of his own, may have given the nephew his blessing to spend the money as he wished. If the other nephew, who is brother to the first, simply did not approve of the manner in which those funds were spent, the matter may have reached the level of a criminal complaint.

As this case moves through the legal process, additional details may be made available. It is possible that further investigation may reveal that the nephew was completely justified in his actions, and the theft charges could be dropped. For many Minnesota readers, the case does serve as an important reminder of the need to draft clear and binding estate-planning documents, which can help prevent theft and also give loved ones proof that they have been rightfully granted the ability to access and use an individual's funds.

Source: twincities.com, "Minnesota businessman bilked sick uncle out of $1 million, charges say", John Myers, Dec. 16, 2014

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